St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Breckenridge to undergo historic renovation |

St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Breckenridge to undergo historic renovation

St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church is pictured in Breckenridge on June 3, 2020. The church is currently being renovated.
Jason Connolly/Summit Daily News

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that the original church and parish hall will have their foundations replaced. The original structures will remain and will be renovated.

BRECKENRIDGE — The road to renovation for the historic St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Breckenridge has been lengthy, but after years of planning, the church is moving forward with a major construction undertaking on the pioneer-era building. 

Originally built in 1881, the church was moved to its present site on French Street in 1892 when it was purchased by the Episcopalians, according to a press release from the church. Stu Read, chairman of the church’s Renovation Committee, said the church’s current priest brought up the idea of a renovation in January 2017 after noticing that some aspects of the building needed updating.

The Renovation Committee was formed in January 2019. Read joked that he was asked by the priest to lead the committee because he was the “biggest sinner in the congregation.”

“Initially, it was going to be kind of a beautification and a make more efficient use of the spaces we had,” Read said. “And then we discovered we have foundation issues. The foundation was going to need to be replaced both under the … historical church and the foundation in our parish hall, which was added on in 1986. … So that’s when we decided, ‘Well, why not dig out underneath the historical church?’ We found out from the town that we’d be able to do that and get free density because it was underneath a historical structure.”

The church had the development agreement application approved by Breckenridge Town Council in September 2019, but the development agreement wasn’t officially approved until March 2020 due to changes and the need for approval from the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado. The church then brought the project to the town planning commission in May and received a thumbs up. 

Nancy Kinney explained in a new release that the area under the church will be excavated along with the lower level of the parish hall to create a larger meeting area below the entire length of the building. She noted that exterior changes to the building will be limited due to its prominence in the town’s historic district.

Read said the church is now in the process of getting a building permit, which also involves approval from the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado. Once the process is complete, the project can begin. Read said the church hopes to break ground on the project around the end of the month and to complete the project within 18 months with the ultimate goal of reopening the renovated church by Christmas 2021. 

A historic photo shows St. John Episcopal Church sometime between 1892 and 1905.
Courtesy Maureen Nicholls

The construction on the church involves lifting the structure to dig out the ground beneath the church, pouring concrete for a new foundation, putting the original church and parish hall back into place and then renovating the church interior. The interior renovation includes putting in up-to-date insulation and increasing energy efficiency. Read said some of the original wood and flooring from the building will be repurposed. 

Of course, a major project like this is costly, and the church needed to raise more than $2.75 million. Read reported that most of the money has been raised and that parishioners of the church pledged whatever money they could. He said that during the summer and winter seasons, the church typically sees 160-175 total attendees at the two Sunday services the church holds. 

“We’ve made a tremendous dent in that (monetary goal), and we’re in good shape financially,” Read said. 

While construction is being done, church services will be held outside the church. Currently, the church is hosting virtual services and Bible studies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when the congregation can again meet in-person, the church members will meet in the Hopeful and Discovery meeting rooms of the South Branch Library near the church. 

“What we’re doing is we’re preserving our existing church and then renovating what we have to make it a more welcoming, efficient structure,” Read said. “… And to allow the church to be functional for another 100 years, that’s our goal.”

A rendering shows what the church will look like post-construction.
Stais Architecture & Interiors/Courtesy image

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